When & How To Seek Medical Care
If low back pain lasts for longer than one to two weeks, seek medical care. First, make an appointment with your primary care physician.
Seek immediate medical attention if any of the following symptoms are present in addition to back pain:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Unexplained fever
- Loss of control of your bowels or bladder
How Are Back Strains And Sprains Treated
The treatment for strains and sprains is similar, and often takes place in two phases.
The goal of the first phase is to reduce the pain and spasm. This may involve rest, and the use of ice packs and compression , especially for the first 24 to 48 hours after the injury. An over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen , may be recommended to help reduce pain and swelling.
After the first 24 to 48 hours, returning to normal activities, as tolerated, is advisable. Extended bed rest or immobility simply prolongs symptoms and delays recovery.
Most people with lumbar strain/sprain symptoms improve in about 2 weeks. If symptoms continue for more than 2 weeks, additional treatment may be required.
Finding Comfort After Youve Strained A Muscle
If youve strained your muscle, there are several steps you can take to promote healing in your back. This includes:
- Taking over-the-counter pain medication for short-term pain relief
- Receiving light massage
- Using hot and cold therapy
- Soaking in a warm bath with Epsom salts
Physical therapy and strength training can also play a valuable role in helping your strained muscles heal correctly and regain strength. In addition, prevent future strains by always practicing safe lifting techniques and warming up before exercising.
How Do You Know If Back Pain Is Muscle Or Disc
There are two common types of back pain: a lumbar sprain and a herniated disc. Sprains occur when the back muscle is strained, or a person twists while bending over. Discs, on the other hand, are damaged by repeated physical stress or overuse. A herniated disc occurs when the discs nucleus pushes out of the wall, irritating a spinal nerve. This type of pain can be intense and accompanied by weakness in the leg.
Back pain is a common condition that affects 31 million people in the U.S. and is often difficult to diagnose. But identifying the source of your pain is a vital first step to recovery. While imaging may not be necessary for every back ache, it is important to get a proper physical examination to rule out any underlying issues.
A herniated disc may occur in any part of your spine, but is most common in the lower back and buttocks. Pain from a herniated disc may extend to your buttocks, thighs, and calves. The discomfort is usually worse when you stand or move. You may also experience numbness or tingling in the area.
Initial Treatments For Low Back Muscle Strain
Infographic:Lower Back Pain
Most cases of a pulled back muscle are treated using standard self-care or non-invasive treatments. Some typical first-step treatments for a pulled low back muscle include:
- Anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen reduce inflammation, which often contributes to pain. Anti-inflammatory medicines are available over-the-counter or with a prescription.
- Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as acetaminophen, minimize pain by interfering with the way the brain interprets pain signals. Acetaminophen may also be included as an active ingredient in prescription medications, such as in combination with an opioid.
- Muscle relaxants may be prescribed on a short-term basis to reduce muscle spasm. Most muscle relaxants do not affect muscles directly, but rather dampen pain receptors in the central nervous system. These medications have many side effects, and muscle relaxants also carry risk of addiction.
- Ice packs reduce inflammation that can occur shortly after a muscle is injured. Typical recommendations include applying a cold or ice pack for 10 – 20 minutes at regular intervals throughout the day, and using a towel or other barrier between the ice and the skin to prevent an ice burn.
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What Research Is Being Done
The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is to seek fundamental knowledge of the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. NINDS is a component of the National Institutes of Health , the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world.
As a primary supporter of research on pain and pain mechanisms, NINDS is a member of the NIH Pain Consortium, which was established to promote collaboration among the many NIH Institutes and Centers with research programs and activities addressing pain. On an even broader scale, NIH participates in the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee, a federal advisory committee that coordinates research across other U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies as well as the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
Whats The Treatment For Low Back Strain
Low back strain can be a painful and depressing injury. But the good news is that most cases heal on their own, given time. To speed the healing, you should:
- Ice your back to reduce pain and swelling as soon as you injure yourself. Do it for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours for 2-3 days. You can also ice your back after physical activity.
- Apply heat to your back â but only after 2-3 days of icing it first. Use heat on your back only after the initial swelling has gone down. You could use an electric heating pad or a hot water bottle. Or you could just soak in a hot bath.
- Take painkillers or other drugs, if recommended by your doctor. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , like Advil, Aleve, or Motrin, will help with lower back pain and swelling. However, these drugs may have side effects. They should be used only occasionally, unless your doctor specifically says otherwise. Prescription painkillers and muscle relaxants are sometimes necessary.
- Use support. Ask your doctor or therapist first, but consider getting a belt or girdle to add support to your back. Use it only short-term or for support with heavy or repetitive lifting.
- Get physical therapy to build up strength, if your doctor recommends it. Do not stay in bed or on the couch all day. That will make it worse.
- Maintain good muscle tone in your abdominal and lower back muscles.
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What Structures Make Up The Back
The lower backwhere most back pain occursincludes the five vertebrae in the lumbar region, which supports much of the weight of the upper body. The spaces between the vertebrae are maintained by round, rubbery pads called intervertebral discs that act like shock absorbers throughout the spinal column to cushion the bones as the body moves. Bands of tissue known as ligaments hold the vertebrae in place, and tendons attach the muscles to the spinal column. Thirty-one pairs of nerves are rooted to the spinal cord and they control body movements and transmit signals from the body to the brain.
Other regions of vertebrate are cervical , thoracic , and sacral and coccygeal segments.
Not Sure What To Do Next
If you are still concerned about your back injury, check your symptoms with healthdirects online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether its self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero .
Pulled Back Muscle Treatment
Learn about muscle anatomy and the symptoms of lower back strain. WatchLower Back Strain Video
Aggressive chiropractic manipulation should be avoided at the onset of treatment. It is best to restore health in a very gradual and dedicated process, watching for worsening symptoms versus improvement.
Ultimately, the severity of a muscle injury will determine what kind of treatment is necessary.
Back Strain Symptoms And Causes
You have many muscles in your back, and tendons attach muscles to bones. During a back strain injury, you can stretch one or more of these structures.
Back strain typically causes an achy pain that’s usually limited to the injured area. But the pain can also travel down into the buttock area.
You may also notice decreased flexibility of your movement. Your joints can become “guarded” if moving them is painful. Over time, constant muscle stiffness or intermittent muscle spasms can develop.
The strain can also lead to inflammation. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons says this inflammation can cause pain and/or back muscle spasms.
Often, back strain occurs when muscle or tendon fibers become torn or overstretched. Most of the time, back strains are caused by lifting heavy objects with a bent or twisted spine.
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Common Symptoms Of A Pulled Back Muscle
Symptoms to expect from a pulled lower back muscleor any type of lower back straintypically include:
- Dull, achy low back pain. Strained muscles usually feel sore, tight, or achy. Pain that feels hot, tingling, or electric is more likely caused by an irritated nerve root, not a pulled muscle.
- Intensified pain with movement. Low back strain typically worsens with specific movements that activate the affected muscles. For example, there may be a flare-up of pain when getting up from a seated position, when bending forward, or when first getting out of bed in the morning.
- Pain that is localized in the low back. Pain is usually concentrated in the lower back. It may also be felt in the buttocks and/or hips, as these muscles help support the low back. Rarely does pain travel down the legs and into the calves and feet, as in cases of sciatica.
See Your Doctor If The Pain Is Persistent
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What Are The Symptoms Of Low Back Pain
Low back pain is classified as acute and chronic. Acute low back pain lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Most acute low back pain will resolve on its own. Chronic low back pain lasts for more than 3 months and often gets worse. The cause of chronic low back pain can be hard to find. These are the most common symptoms of low back pain. Symptoms may include discomfort or pain in the lower back that is:
- Protruding or herniated disk
How Is Low Back Pain Treated
Treatment may include:
- A prevention program
- Assistive devices
Rehabilitation is often a part of treatment for low back pain. Generally, there are 3 phases of low back pain rehab.
- Acute phase. During this initial phase, the physiatrist and treatment team develop a plan to reduce the initial low back pain and source of inflammation. This may include using ultrasound, electrical stimulation, or specialized injections.
- Recovery phase. Once the initial pain and inflammation are better managed, the rehab team focuses on helping you return to normal daily activities while starting a specialized exercise program to regain flexibility and strength.
- Maintenance phase. In this phase, you will learn ways to prevent further injury and strain to the back. You will also learn how to start a fitness program to help further increase strength and endurance.
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Causes Of Strain In Lower Back Muscles
As one of the most common injuries among adults, lower back strain can occur due to a broad range of causes, including:
- Sudden impact from a fall, collision, or athletic activity
- Repetitive motion that causes stress on the muscles and joints
- Lifting while twisting, or lifting an object that is too heavy
- Poor posture or incorrect form when performing activities
- Weak or imbalanced muscles in the back and abdominals
- Excess weight that causes stress in lower back muscles
Lower back muscle strain is typically diagnosed by a medical professional after performing a physical examination and evaluating your history of injury. In cases of severe pain, other tests such as an x-ray or MRI might be performed to rule out other types of injuries.
Grade 3 Severe Back Muscle Strain
Grade 3 injuries will result in the patient being unable to walk properly. They will be in severe pain and significant swelling will appear immediately.
Contracting the back muscles will be painful and might produce a bulge in the muscle. The patient can expect to be out of competition for 3 to twelve weeks or more.
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Low Back Muscle Strains
The spine is supported by large muscles called the paraspinal muscles. These muscles both support the spinal column as well as the weight of the upper body. The five lumbar vertebrae are connected by tough ligaments that help to maintain the position of the spinal column.
These muscles, ligaments, and bones all work together to provide control and strength for nearly all activities. The lumbar spine and its muscles are needed for most all movements and activities. For this reason, the lumbar spine is prone to injury, and when an injury has been sustained, people have difficulty performing many activities.
What Causes A Pulled Muscle In Your Back
You can end up with a pulled back muscle for any number of reasons. It could have happened suddenly from an injury. Or it may have developed gradually over time because of repetitive movements or overusesuch as lifting, exercising, or sitting hunched over for long periodsthat overstressed your back muscles.
Even poor posture can contribute to a pulled back muscle because slouching puts an added strain on the spine and the muscles that support it. Carrying excessive body weight is a culprit, too. Being overweight forces the back muscles to work harder than they should to support the extra load. Thats why people who are overweight or pregnant are more likely to have achy backs.
Other common causes of a pulled back muscle include:
- using poor technique when lifting a heavy object from the ground or lowering it from overhead especially if you twist while you do it.
- performing a forceful repetitive motion, such as that required by playing golf or other sports or perhaps swinging a hammer.
- failing to use good form while exercising.
- starting a new exercise routine, sport, or job activity that overworks a group of muscles that are not used to the force of the motion required.
- moving in any way that jars the muscles in the lower back, especially if you hit the ground hard or in an awkward position, such as movements that could occur in a fall or car accident.
- leading a sedentary lifestyle, which weakens back muscles.
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Back Muscle Strain When To See A Doctor
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, in most cases, you can treat pulled and strained back muscles at home. Home remedies help to improve the healing time and you should be pain-free quicker.
However, there are some conditions that require you to seek medical advice for your pulled upper back muscle or low back pain.17, 18 These are:
- Tingling or numbness in your back, arms, or legs.
- You suffer intense back pain after a severe trauma like a car accident or falling.
- You notice weakness or pain in your legs.
- You have signs of a fever.
- You lose control of your bladder or bowels.
- Severe back pain, especially low back pain that wakes you up in the middle of the night.
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More Advanced Care Options
Surgery When other therapies fail, surgery may be considered to relieve pain caused by worsening nerve damage, serious musculoskeletal injuries, or nerve compression. Specific surgeries are selected for specific conditions/indications. However, surgery is not always successful. It may be months following surgery before the person is fully healed and there may be permanent loss of flexibility. Surgical options include:
Implanted nerve stimulators
- Spinal cord stimulation uses low-voltage electrical impulses from a small implanted device that is connected to a wire that runs along the spinal cord. The impulses are designed to block pain signals that are normally sent to the brain.
- Dorsal root ganglion stimulation also involves electrical signals sent along a wire connected to a small device that is implanted into the lower back. It specifically targets the nerve fibers that transmit pain signals. The impulses are designed to replace pain signals with a less painful numbing or tingling sensation.
- Peripheral nerve stimulation also uses a small implanted device and an electrode to generate and send electrical pulses that create a tingling sensation to provide pain relief.
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Low Back Muscle Strain
There are several muscles either side of the lower back. There is Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum as well as numerous small muscles like Multifidus and larger swathes of tissues like the thoracolumbar fascia and Latissimus Dorsi.
With lifting and twisting these muscles are vulnerable to being strained and torn, as well as prone to going into spasm and protective tightness when other issues deeper in the back kick in.
Treatment starts with a thorough assessment of the origin of the problem followed by hands-on work to resolve the spasm and tightness as well as the causes like facet joint locks and disc issues.
Lower back pain is one of our most common conditions we see and one we enjoy treating immensely. NICE recommended,manual therapy for managing low back pain with or without sciatica, but only as part of a treatment package including exercise.
This is exactly what we do!